Sep 4, 2012

Kloppers’ visit confirms Olympic Dam a pipe dream

Just what is the status of the Olympic Dam expansion plan? BHP boss Marius Kloppers finally made it clear yesterday -- it's nothing but a pipe dream. Kevin Naughton of InDaily reports.

Bleak house or happy house? It depends on which newspaper you read, following the visit to Adelaide yesterday by BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers. Kloppers was here at the invitation of Premier Jay Weatherill, who was keen to pass on the disappointment of South Australians arising from BHP's decision to make no decision on the proposed Olympic Dam expansion. Or as Kloppers himself put it: "Until a decision is made, it is not made." The BHP boss fronted the media after his meeting with the state government and his assessment of the now "unviable" project drew differing reportage. "Digging in: BHP boss won’t give up on Dam riches," The Advertiser cheered from its front page and again inside where it labelled the South African mining executive "Super Marius". "Kloppers' bleak Olympic hopes," said The Australian rolling off the comments that there was no timeframe for the project and no guarantee it would ever go ahead. ABC TV took a neutral position, reporting that BHP Billiton says it remains committed to expanding the mine, but will look to technology for a cheaper extraction method. Channels Nine and Seven were very clear on the news value of Kloppers' visit -- they led their local bulletins with the long-wait experienced by Crows fans wanting tickets to Saturday’s AFL qualifying final. So, just what is the status of the Olympic Dam expansion plan? On May 31 this year the state Treasurer Jack Snelling talked up the prospect that "South Australia will be a very different place in a few years. The expanded Olympic Dam mine -- the largest open-pit mine in the world -- will be operating, along with dozens of others, exporting copper, gold and uranium to a region hungry for our resources." Yesterday Kloppers made it clear the project his company proposed in the 15,000-page Environmental Impact Assessment and that government legislated for in the Amended Indenture Agreement is officially dead. Referring to rising costs of labour, materials and energy and the mix of a high Australian dollar and technical difficulties he said this: "There have been general industry-wide cost increases, which, when coupled with high energy costs which you use a lot -- i.e. diesel -- which has made a concept we thought would work, unviable." Weatherill had clearly got the message, conceding yesterday that the current model planned for the expansion "does not work". "It is their intention to advance the project, it remains a valuable ore body and it is their intention to proceed with the expansion," he said. "But they are not able to advance a time when the technology will be proven, nor are they able to give us certainty about whether the technology will be capable of being proven, and therefore they will not be in a position to give us certainty about when the mine proceeds." And that's where we are in September 2012 -- in the same place we were in the 1970s when geologists first got excited about the dirt near a waterhole called Olympic Dam on Roxby Downs Station. Turning dreams into reality is a tough business -- explaining how and why you convinced an entire state to believe in the dream requires a better explanation than we've had so far. *This article was first published at InDaily

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5 thoughts on “Kloppers’ visit confirms Olympic Dam a pipe dream

  1. mark hipgrave

    But hang-on, …. this can’t be correct

    Tony told me that it’s all the fault of the Carbon Tax……..

    And when he gets in next year and repeals it on Day 1 (like he’s promised to do) then Uncle Marius will announce the OD go-ahead the day after.

    Dont worry, (South) Australia, be patient for just a few more months!

  2. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Mark , don’t you mean years and years?

  3. Bill Hilliger

    Unlike perishables what is left in the ground today will be there for future generations to exploit. Whats wrong with that?

  4. AR

    “put not your trust in magnates”to paraphrase Machiavelli’s advice to The Prince which applies just as well to Premiers.
    The question occurs to me, “if you’re so rich, how come you ain’t smart?” – all these fools rushing to dig-baby-dig (no apologies to Gone Rouge), in the commercial world of supply & demand, if supply exceeds demand, guess what happens to price!
    In this case, uranium was the by-product, allegedly, from a copper, tin & silver mine (yeh, right!) and the price, never strong except in the mind of nuke boosters, has collapsed due to that damned gamma radioactivity thang.
    Hopefully, the same will happen with Rhinohide’s Roy Price, iron ore down a third and falling, falling…, and Tinkles and, dare one hope, His Cliveness?
    Maybe then this country can begin to realise what matters, community and the common weal.

  5. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    AR, the collapse of commerce (the commerce that arises from mining for metals or for electricity generation) will do nothing but harm to “community and the common weal.” Be careful what you wish for.
    By the way, who ever alleged that Olympic Dam’s uranium output is a “by-product”? And tin, from Olympic Dam? Don’t think so. “His Cliveness” (so droll) owns a metals refinery currently employing around 1000 people at Townsville. It might be ugly and a potential pollution nightmare but its existence now underpins a serious hunk of community and common weal. No one hopes for its “collapse” let alone abandonment for the community to resolve. What we hope for is that pollution and sustainability issues will be addressed in a professional, transparent and competent manner and that is no laughing matter. We are all part of the compromises that have been made to create the community we have got. It’s not a conspiracy. Our houses, our cars and planes, our way of life and of doing business have brought us to this position and they will take us to the next one. There is no ‘end’, where everything is good (again). That’s just religious comfort food, dreamland.

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